Australian native Rebecca Jones hopped onto her first cruise ship as an employee in 2004 and never looked back. Armed with a marketing degree – complemented by a minor in Asian studies – from Griffith University on Australia’s Gold Coast, Jones spent three years onboard Carnival ships. She then went on to become head of global training and development for Starboard Cruise Services (, working out of the Miami office. The company manages boutiques onboard ships operated by Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Silversea. Rebecca recently joined John Hardy Jewelry in the role of Director of Global Education & Special Events.

What were your initial career aspirations?

I wanted to be a stage actor – you know, be in the spotlight. I did a lot of theater at school and absolutely loved it. But I had to go to college first. Those were my (parents’) instructions.

What was your professional experience prior to joining cruise ships?

For the first few years of school I worked full-time as a waitress at a casino at night, and studied during the day. I was also the international ambassador at the Australian pavilion at the World Expo in Hanover, Germany (in 2000). When I came back to Australia, I was the retail manager for a surf company, while finishing my last two years of university at night.

My first professional job was a junior business consultant for a company that specializes in business performance, working with really large companies before they go public. I did a lot of workflow analysis and led trainings.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the cruise industry?

I wanted to see the world and get paid for it. It’s ironic because the ships I worked on never went anywhere except Nassau, in the Bahamas. I ended up with a job in my profession, a training and development job. If I was going to work on cruise ships, I wanted it to be part of a career that I’d already started.

What position(s) did you hold while working onboard ships?

I was hired by Carnival as an onboard corporate trainer (2004-2006). For the second contract, they promoted me to lead corporate trainer, which they call training and development manager now. I held that position for four contracts (between four and six months each). Then Starboard Cruise Services was looking for someone shoreside with retail, training and cruise-ship experience. I interviewed a week after leaving the ship and got the job as a training specialist a week later. Within three months I was promoted to training manager. I oversaw training for the whole company. We had our corporate office in Miami and offices in Hong Kong and Italy.

What did you enjoy most about working onboard cruise ships?

You get to know the world through people and I met people from countries I’d never heard of before. Because I was working in training and helping people get better at their jobs, I heard so many amazing stories about why people go to work on ships. To be part of their training and development and growth was rewarding. Jobs on ships allowed a lot of these people to provide for their families back home.

What did you find most challenging about working onboard?

There’s no privacy onboard a ship. Your business is everybody else’s business and you know everybody else’s business. It’s a very communal environment: to be ‘on’ all the time was definitely a challenge.

What is one of your favorite memories working onboard?

I was the training manager onboard one of the ships chartered by FEMA in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was only one of three native English speakers onboard. On Christmas Day we – 400 crewmembers – celebrated together. Somebody dressed up like Santa Claus. I don’t even think many people in the room celebrated Christmas as part of their holiday. To have team members come together from so many nations during a very difficult situation was unbelievable.

What skills did you develop in your cruise line jobs that lead you to where you are today?

Everything I accomplished was through influence. On ships you learn to do that through culture, nationality, gender and hierarchy. Working on ships, there are a lot of barriers, things like the Internet. How do you do distance training if you don’t have the Internet? We’ve become like the MacGyvers at sea. We do things very quickly. One of the skills I developed was to produce quality at a fast pace. It’s amazing how flexible you need to be.

What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in the cruise industry?

Talk to people who have worked on cruise ships and understand there are good stories and there are bad stories. The lifestyle is not for everybody. Ask more questions. Ask if it’s the right lifestyle decision. There are so many opportunities on the ship. If you look at it at a surface level all you see are the guest-facing jobs. You would never know that the ships have training managers onboard for the staff and crew behind the scenes.

As Director of Global Education & Special Events for John Hardy Jewelry, what would you consider the most fascinating aspect of your current role?

I get to spend a lot of time trying to understand what motivates people – from all over the world – to learn and to shop. I get to create an environment where people can be high-performance and build a career.